So, we meet again Dr. Jones...
When I picked up Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, I hoped for the same Lucasarts quality that brought us the Monkey Island series, X-wing vs Tie-fighter, and Grim Fandango. Unfortunately, save for a few additions, this game is strictly a bad Tomb Raider rip-off.
Finally, three movies and two games later, World War II is over. (I was wondering when Indy would get rid of those damn Nazis!) Indiana Jones has gone back to his archeological roots, leaving behind his treasure hunting past. But the past eventually catches up to him when Sophia Hapgood, a previous associate, sends him into the desert ruins of the Tower of Babel. Apparently, it housed a machine that could allow a demon named Marduk to cross into our reality. Indy, always in the right place at the right time, has to stop them from starting the machine and releasing the demon (of course).
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine is an obvious attempt to play off the success of the Tomb Raider series. All the major parts are here: Large jumps, swimming, pushing and pulling blocks, climbing, crawling, rolling, and so on. Considering that Lara was Indiana Jones with boobs, this isn't that unexpected. But for some reason, everything they drew from Tomb Raider was done surprisingly poorly.
If you look at the still shots of the game, you would think that the graphics are very good. What you can't see, however, is the jumpy animation in the game. For example, when you start running your legs don't smoothly start moving. Instead, your legs just appear in the appropriate position. So you see your left leg go from on the ground, to halfway in the air, with no movement in-between. This sort of thing makes all the motions unrealistic.
Beyond that, there are just a bunch of graphical glitches to root out. When Indy runs into a wall, he doesn't react at all, he just stops with one foot still in the air! The animation leaves a lot to be desired.
The sound is a little better than average. Doug Lee returns as the voice of Indy, and does a mighty fine job of it, I may add. The other voices are of equally high quality. The music is pretty good, with a few interesting variations of the main theme. The ambient sounds are of high quality, with all he rushing wind and running water noises that you could want.
Then, there are the controls, which are just awful. Indy is frighteningly unresponsive to the controls. If you tell him to run, he accelerates about as fast as a Mack truck. Sometimes, depending on the last button you pushed, he doesn't even move. Also, we all remember the controls from Tomb Raider right? The simple action and jump buttons? Those were self-explanatory: The jump button simply jumped, while the action button did stuff (like grab onto things or pick up things and so on). But for some strange reason, the designers of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine decided to make the button you use to jump also used to climb things! Not only is the counter-intuitive, but also it can cause some spectacular mishaps. In one case, I ran towards a ledge, then pressed the jump button to climb up, but because I wasn't at the right angle, it made me jump into the pit on the right. Ouch.
And don't even mention the combat! Although you do have quite an arsenal of weapons at your disposal in this game, using them is an absolute pain. In the Tomb Raider series, there was auto-lock feature, where you could aim at a single target. But in Indy, you have to be facing the enemy straight-on to have any chance of shooting him. Turning is imprecise, and there is no way to jump left and right to dodge bullets. There is a roll move that allows you to dodge, but most of the time I used it, I ended up staying in the same place for no obvious reason.
Flawed game engine aside, they did get some bits right with Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. More specifically, the bits they got right were those that didn't come from Tomb Raider. Indy's whip doubles as a climbing and swinging implement, which makes for a few some cool gameplay moments. At one point, you go whitewater rafting while trying to dodge rocks and all sorts of other things. Definitely fun.
The level design itself isn't half bad. There are some interesting puzzles with creative solutions. They also combine the story elements with the puzzles well. For example, you need to find pieces of a stone tablet as a key. But when you get them together, you also find out that they contain a message. It's a neat integration of story and gameplay, if only the actual game didn't make it so frustrating to get to those spots.
Despite a handful of good points, the terrible controls and strange graphical problems ruin Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. Let's put it this way: if it doesn't look like Indy, doesn't act like Indy, and it doesn't move like Indy, it's not really Indy, is it?